Monday, January 28, 2013

Game Day Turkey Chili

I love sporting events. For the most part, I don’t really understand the rules or know any players (with the exception of hockey), but I always love an excuse to get a group of people together and enjoy good food.

Photo courtesy of our friends at NatureBox

When most people gather around for Superbowl Sunday, it’s typical to coincide the event with nachos, burgers, traditional chili, deep dish pizza – typically anything that piles on the cheese and meat and skimps on the plant-based proteins, veggies, healthy fats, and whole grains. But there certainly is a way you can have your pizza and eat it, too. We've talked about this before here.

What most people may not realize is that it’s actually quite easy to serve up nutritious versions of these classic football favorites while also satisfying even the heartiest of appetites. All it takes is simply "shifting the plate" to give the plant-based foods more of a starring role. A lot of these good-for-you ingredients add tons of flavor while also dishing out some beneficial nutrition. Take this chili recipe (below), for example, which features mushrooms, beans, and avocado. We think it's a winner!

Photo courtesy of our friends at NatureBox

Superbowl Turkey Chili

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 large bell peppers, chopped
3 medium carrots, finely chopped
10 oz mushrooms, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 ½  teaspoons cumin
1 pound ground turkey
12 oz Lager beer
2 14.5oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes
1 15 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 15oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
Salt & pepper to taste

1.    Heat olive oil in large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell peppers, carrots, and mushrooms until the onions turn golden brown and the carrots begin to soften – about 8 to 10 minutes.
2.     Add the garlic, chili powder, oregano, and cumin and stir 1 minute.
3.     Add the turkey, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until meat loses its raw color – about 3 minutes.
4.    Add the beer. Cover pan; reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 15 minutes. 
5.     Add tomatoes with their juices and the three kinds of beans. Simmer uncovered and stir occasionally until chili thickens – about 20 minutes.

Garnish chili with shredded cheddar cheese, non-fat plain Greek yogurt, avocado, guacamole, or our Avocado YogurtDip.

These seasonal tips &recipe were featured in the January 18th issue of Health & Family Guide for The Santa Clarita Valley Signal. For more “In Season” tips & recipes (I'm talking Valentine's Day next!), pick up the next issue of The Health & Family Guide on February 8th.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Vitamin D - A Natural Mood Booster

I just got home from a weekend in Los Angeles, where McKenzie and I restored our Vitamin D while we talked shop. Now, that’s what I call a business meeting!

A whopping 45 to 75 percent of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D, especially in the Pacific Northwest, where we don’t see much sunshine for at least half of the year. And Vitamin D is essential to our good health, not only for its claim to fame—strengthening bones—but also for reducing our risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and more.

Another reason to boost your D—Vitamin D deficiency is associated with low mood and depression, especially during these dark, winter months. Vitamin D helps in the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that can help you feel calm, relaxed and happy, helping you avoid those winter blues.

Vitamin D is like nature's antidepressant.

Vitamin D is a vitamin, but it is also a hormone that your body makes from the sun. It’s fat-soluble, so your body builds reserves of Vitamin D in your fat tissues, keeping it for when you need it. But, if your body hasn’t stored enough Vitamin D, that may be why you're feeling blue. Not having enough stored Vitamin D also puts you at risk for other chronic illnesses.

Your body makes Vitamin D from sunlight, but it can be hard to get enough from the sun if you don’t spend much time outdoors or you live in a gray climate. Also, wearing sunscreen and long-sleeved clothing reduces the amount of Vitamin D your body can produce from the sun.

This is what Bellingham looks like this morning, so you can see what we're up against.

You can also get Vitamin D from foods, both from foods with naturally-occurring Vitamin D (like fish oils, cold-water fish, eggs and mushrooms) and foods that are fortified with Vitamin D (like milk, orange juice and cereals).

The recommended daily allowances for Vitamin D were set at a level to protect bone health—600 IU for children and adults and 800 IU for older adults, above age 70. However, many new studies suggest you need at least 1,000 to 2,000 IU a day to get the mood-boosting effect and to provide protection from chronic disease. The Institute of Medicine has established 4,000 IU as the maximum amount that is safe to consume daily.

The best way to determine whether or not you are Vitamin D deficient is to get a blood test from your doctor, which measures the amount of 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] in your blood. Most labs use a reference range of about 20– 55 ng/ml to indicate adequate Vitamin D levels. This level has been established as the amount needed for good bone health, and research suggests that levels for optimal overall health are actually about 40– 65 ng/ml, or even higher.

Here are some references for the amount of Vitamin D in foods, from the National Institutes of Health:

IUs per serving*
Percent DV**
Cod liver oil, 1 tablespoon
Swordfish, cooked, 3 ounces
Salmon (sockeye), cooked, 3 ounces
Tuna fish, canned in water, drained, 3 ounces
Orange juice fortified with vitamin D, 1 cup (check product labels, as amount of added vitamin D varies)
Milk, nonfat, reduced fat, and whole, vitamin D-fortified, 1 cup
Yogurt, fortified with 20% of the DV for vitamin D, 6 ounces (more heavily fortified yogurts provide more of the DV)
Sardines, canned in oil, drained, 2 sardines
Liver, beef, cooked, 3 ounces
Egg, 1 large (vitamin D is found in yolk)
Ready-to-eat cereal, fortified with 10% of the DV for vitamin D, 0.75-1 cup (more heavily fortified cereals might provide more of the DV)
Cheese, Swiss, 1 ounce

* IUs = International Units.
** DV = Daily Value

If you choose to take a supplement, make sure you take vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), which is the most active form of Vitamin D (instead of D2). And be sure to talk with your doctor or Registered Dietitian about the level of supplementation that is right for you.